EIU-UPI seeks signatures to petition Rauner

Leon Mire, Associate News Editor

Members of EIU-UPI set up a table to gather signatures for a petition to Gov. Bruce Rauner concerning health insurance negotiations Tuesday afternoon in the Martin Luther King Jr. University Union. They will set up a table again today outside the Union food court from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

According to a handout produced by EIU-UPI, the Illinois Labor Relations Board has ruled that the contract negotiations are at an impasse between Rauner and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, a trade union for public employees. As a result of the ruling, Rauner is authorized to decide on a “best offer” contract.

The petition asks Rauner to “continue negotiating with AFSCME in good faith.”

Math professor and EIU-UPI member Charles Delman said that premiums and copays could double the premiums and copays of state employees. “It affects the least well-off the most,” Delman said.

According to a graphic produced by biological sciences professor Billy Hung, the proposed contract would increase costs for state employees by similar amounts independently of annual income.

Employees with two dependents and an annual income of $28,500 would see their annual costs increase from $4,560 to $9,228, a difference of $4,668. Employees with two dependents and an annual income of $68,000 would see an increase from $5,172 to $10,464, a difference of $5,292.

These differences are for state employees on PPO plans, which are generally more flexible but also more expensive. Those on HMO plans, which are generally less expensive and less flexible, would see smaller increases but still roughly double their current annual costs.

Delman said since employees’ income will stay the same, the proposed increases would effectively be a pay cut. Because of the similar increases in costs, the proposal disproportionately hurts low-income families with dependents.

According to the graphic, those state employees with an annual income of $28,500 would effectively have an annual pay cut of 16.3%. But those with an annual income of $68,000 would effectively have a pay cut of 7.8%.

The effective annual pay cut is calculated by finding the difference between the current and proposed costs, then dividing that number by annual income, Delman said.

Delman said Rauner and the AFSCME are not truly at an impasse and that negotiations should continue. He said Gov. Rauner is trying to impose a contract on the AFSCME that few people would accept.

English instructor and EIU-UPI member Carol Jean Dudley said that the proposed changes do not directly affect students who work for the university. But she still encouraged students to sign the petition. It will affect university employees and thus will affect students indirectly, she said.

Leon Mire can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].